These are dark days, indeed.
The fallout from decades of widespread clergy sexual abuse and cover-ups continues, and many Catholics find themselves confused and unsure of who or what to believe. Reports and statements are being issued at rapid fire, and battle lines are being drawn — all as the Church continues to bleed. Sadly, 16 years after the revelations of the clergy sexual abuse crisis, they are necessary days. For it is only by forging our way through the dark night that we can welcome the new dawn.
Most recently — and on the heels of the allegations of sexual abuse against former-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick and the release of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report — the Church is grappling with a statement released by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, former nuncio to the United States. Archbishop Viganò alleges a cover-up regarding the misconduct of Archbishop McCarrick — a cover-up that, he says, reaches all the way to the papacy.
These are serious allegations, and an ideological battle over them is already raging. Much energy is being spent by some on seeking to discredit Archbishop Viganò and, by others, to testifying to his character. We propose that such energy be focused instead on discovering the facts. In that vein, we applaud the statements made by Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and the members of the National Review Board, calling for a lay-led investigation to “pursue the many questions” and “seek the truth” regarding the rise through the hierarchy of Archbishop McCarrick. We encourage, also, a serious response to the allegations made by Archbishop Viganò. We hope his statements are unfounded; we also recognize that the Church has put blinders on before. That cannot happen again.
Any responsible response to the current crisis must involve thorough, detailed research and investigation. Several media outlets are pursuing such avenues, as the pope has asked, but we also must be wary of agendas and prejudices. As for Our Sunday Visitor: We are on the side of truth, and we seek to discern it and promote it where and when we can. If there is evidence to support Archbishop Viganò’s claims, it is necessary for Catholics to set aside their ideological identities and to unite in a call for consequences.
There are some Church leaders who are reminding us that our emphasis right now should be on the victims of clergy sexual abuse. This is undoubtedly correct, and the Church should always strive to minister to victims in a way that can bring about healing and reconciliation. Cardinal DiNardo, in his statement, addressed them directly: “To the survivors of abuse and the families who have lost a loved one to abuse, I am sorry. You are no longer alone.” But in order to provide true justice to the victims, we need to make sure we understand the full failure of the structures and the individuals that enabled them to be victimized in the first place.
In the eighth chapter of the Gospel of John, Jesus says to a group of argumentative Jews, “If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” By the end of the chapter, the Jews are throwing stones at Jesus, unable and unwilling to comprehend and accept what Jesus is telling them. The truth sometimes leads to uncomfortable situations. As Jesus also shows us, it sometimes leads to the cross.
We should not be afraid, though, to pursue the truth. For in pursuing the truth, we are pursuing Jesus Christ himself.
OSV Editorial Board: Don Clemmer, Gretchen R. Crowe, Scott Richert, York Young